Is the Partner the Don Quixote of the 21st Century Corporate World? The Dilemma of Professional Partnerships

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A large and growing proportion of the organizations in the contemporary knowledge economy are organized as professional partnerships as is the case of professional service firms (PSFs). As these firms have grown larger (e. g. Big4: Deloitte, PwC, E&Y, KPMG), the way of organizing is under pressure for change. This raises the question of whether the Partner ownership and management model is a relic of the past - and the partner a Don Quixote-figure of the 21st century corporate world? Based on an ethnographic study of a PSF in Denmark, and data from other sources, the paper analyzes the changing organization of work, the changing partner and manager roles and basic changes in the HR-model. The dilemma the paper highlights is the tension between a still more centralized and efficiency oriented management and the basic need for development of professional human resources and leadership. The paper sees the dilemma as a result of a fundamental tension between a logic of professionalism and a logic of bureaucracy. The paper discusses where the professional partnership organization is going in terms of; commitment of the partners, the educator role of the partner, the distributed ownership model and the future of the partner role in complex organizations. Finally, the paper proposes that professional partnership needs to find a ' new balance' between the traditional professional logic of the partners and the still more influential logic of bureaucracy of the modern complex organization to overcome the dilemma pointed to.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDanish Journal of Management & Business
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)7-22
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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